Madison Diocese: Retired Priest Found Guilty of Abusing Minor

Associated Press, carried in Daily News
June 13, 2007

Madison, Wis. - A retired Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing boys in the 1960s and 1970s has been found guilty by a church panel and ordered to never again celebrate Mass, the Diocese of Madison said Wednesday.

The decision comes five years after the Rev. Kenneth Klubertanz was placed on administrative leave as pastor of a church in Lodi, about 30 miles north of Madison, after a man said he was abused by him as a 13-year-old in the 1970s.

At the time, Catholic churches across the country were confronting allegations of widespread sexual abuse of boys by priests and that leaders covered up problems for decades by transferring priests to new parishes.

A three-judge panel who oversaw a church trial on the accusations against Klubertanz determined they were credible, the diocese said, finding him guilty under church law of sexually abusing a minor.

The diocese did not specify which accusations were found credible. But at least three men have accused Klubertanz of molesting them when they were teenagers and he served at other Wisconsin churches in the 1960s and 1970s. One of them, a former altar boy, said the abuse occurred during a trip to a cottage in northern Wisconsin.

Klubertanz has not been removed from the priesthood, or laicized, but instead has been deemed "unsuitable for priestly ministry," the diocese said.

That means he is never to wear clerical garb or present himself publicly as a priest, celebrate Mass or administer the sacraments, said the Rev. Donald J. Heiar Jr., vicar general for the diocese. The judges also ordered that he never be alone with anyone under 18 years old.

"He is to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance," Heiar said.

Heiar would not say where Klubertanz is living in retirement but said the church was not paying his living expenses. He said Klubertanz might be receiving health care and pension benefits from the church but was no longer on its payroll.

Madison Bishop Robert Morlino has in recent days called the victims to inform them of the news, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which advocates for victims.

The group said the church was allowed to drag its feet in the case as a result of a court ruling that bars civil lawsuits against Catholic churches in Wisconsin in old abuse cases. The state Supreme Court is considering whether to overturn the ruling.

One of the victims, Chris Leonard, said he testified at the church trial in July 2005 and didn't understand why the church took two years to reach a decision.

"They did everything to protect his rights but really have done nothing to protect mine," said Leonard, 45, a social worker who lives in Patton, Mo. He said he was abused as a teenager in the 1970s when he attended a Janesville church where Klubertanz served.

Leonard called on the diocese to release Klubertanz's personnel file, saying that could shed light on whether the church was aware of other allegations and covered them up. He also said the diocese, which serves 11 counties in Wisconsin, should say where Klubertanz is living so the public can be protected.

Heiar rejected those calls, citing privacy concerns. He said the church immediately put Klubertanz on leave when learning of an allegation in 2002 and started its process to review the complaint.

"That process, like any other, takes time," he said.


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